Our daughter recently finished third grade homeschooling. My original plan had been to allow her to take a few weeks off to relax and play and be a kid before starting a new academic year. I’m not sure how long that is going to last, however, as these aren’t exactly the most fun and relaxing days. I want her free time to actually feel like a vacation – that’s where childhood memories are made, after all. We might get down to business sooner and take a break when our social landscape is more enjoyable.
At any rate, I get a lot of questions from parents who are new to homeschooling or homeschooling-curious about what our daily schedule and academic year look like.
My goal generally is to have our daughter get her school work out of the way in the morning hours so I can have uninterrupted time after that for my own work. We try to tackle the most challenging subjects first, when her mind is fresh, and then she can work independently.
I believe having projects to work on independently is extremely important in intellectual development. This isn’t simply a good way to manage a household schedule. We have a lot of kids graduating high school now who are incapable of managing their own efforts because they are so accustomed to having adults micromanage them. This is a real problem when they arrive at college and are expected to work independently full-time.
Here’s what our schedule for fourth grade looks like:
- Literature – Daily chapter or two that we read aloud over breakfast
- Religion and Philosophy
- Human Biology and Genetics
- Computer Science or Engineering Project
- American Folk Music, Folk Art, and Folktales
- American History
- Journal Entry
- Grammar and Language
- Spelling and Poetry
- Lunch and free time for the remainder of the day (for her – I get to work)
- Extracurricular activities – Hunter-jumper horseback riding (once a week), Shotokan karate (twice a week), probably soccer at some point
That sounds like an awful lot, but the key is to break everything down into small pieces. You work through a small amount of each subject every day, and then it’s amazing what you accomplish cumulatively. I’d say our schedule is fairly relaxed, in fact.
Homeschooled children also tend to be years beyond their peers in traditional schools simply because they accomplish more learning in any given day. They do not have to deal with lost time (sitting in class while the teacher handles administrative tasks or works with other students, transitions between classes, and so on) and busywork. And they have a one-to-one student-teacher ratio, so they grasp new concepts easily. This means they are usually tackling much more challenging work at earlier ages, but it is a natural development.
One of the cool things about homeschooling is if your child is uniquely interested in a specific topic, you have the flexibility to build that into your curriculum. This is an incredible advantage over public and even most private schools, especially if you have an intellectually gifted child (as we do). I know it sounds bizarre to teach an eight-year-old about genetics, but our daughter is obsessed with the idea of cloning and I love to indulge that sort of quirk. Learning about biology and genetics this year is actually at her request. If she can handle it intellectually, then I go for it. Also, she happens to be at a point already where she can perform the math in the genetics textbook. That helps.
Rather than having a bunch of random subjects, I try to take an interdisciplinary approach to education. This year, we are studying American history for the first time. I have designed an entire curriculum that emphasizes our identity as Americans. We will be reading literature that applies to different periods in American history (colonial life, the American Revolution and Civil War, slavery, the Great Depression, life in Native American tribes, the collision of cultures in America when it was a developing nation). I also put together a unit on American folk music, folk art, and folktales that I am very proud of. That is the kind of thing a student definitely does not get in a traditional school environment.
In future posts, I am going to publish our lesson plans so parents who are considering homeschooling can see how we do it in detail. (Or if you are already homeschooling, you might get ideas for educational resources to use.) I’ve never seen anyone on homeschooling blogs do such a thing before, and I think it would have helped me when we were first getting started on this adventure.